Wazuka and Shigaraki

This week I took two cycling adventures towards the south into Wazuka and Shigaraki.  These are two of the most scenic areas for cycling around Kyoto and a great place to get lost in the mountains. There are plenty of well paved, small roads as well as mountain passes so you can choose to either take the easy route through the main valleys or the more challenging route through the mountains.

On Tuesday I rode with Iago Brenlla and we started our ride by going down the riverside bike path toward Kizu. From there we turned east and started to cycle back through the main roads of Wazuka  and into the mountains toward the Miho Museum. All the way through Wazuka you can see the tea fields on the mountains on both sides of the road. The best part of this ride is once you reach the end of the Wazuka valley it is more or less 50km flat and downhill back to Kyoto! Our ride was 13okm roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 1,200m.  The mountains are full of traditional farm houses and small temples like the Senzen Temple which is along the banks of a small stream in a quiet mountain pass.

.senzen temple

Shigaraki, which is about the halfway point on the trip is famous for all types of functional and decorative ceramics especially the Tanuki. Tanuki is a good luck spirit with ‘8 points’ of luck in the form (hat, staff, sake jug, massive testicles, etc). One can find these funny little, or not so little, creatures in front of restaurants and private residences all over Kyoto.

tanuki in shigaraki

Later in the week I joined a group of riders hosted by Takuya Kawasumi from the WHOO Cycle Shop in Kyoto. There were 7 riders and the pace was fast and furious. Unlike Tuesday, we attacked what seemed like every possible mountain pass between Uji back to Kyoto and my legs were screaming at me most of the way.  Mikunigoe-rindo was the standout of the day with an seemingly endless number of false summits and rolling peaks. It was nice to ride with some of the other famous riders from Kyoto like Nobuo Takao from the Shakariki group.  This ride was around 150km roundtrip and the climb was over 2,5oom. In Shagaraki we had a funny and totally unexpected Chinese meal. At first it seemed like much too much to eat with over 60km to get home on the bike, but, as always, after another hour on the road…I was hungry again.

chinese food shigaraki

Please look at the video of our ride here: http://youtu.be/Zw9qHT1z73Q

Joshua Levine